Yesterday is still fresh in our minds when Bene and I head out of the Albergue where we spent the night. Our Albergue turns out to be located below a small, but nice looking hotel. Non pilgrims stay in regular rooms (at regular prices) while people on The Way are given small rooms, or bunks below. The dinner ticket we purchased the previous night entitled us to a full buffet in the hotel….and we were up to the challenge. We gorged ourselves. Tomatoes, tuna, lettuce, carrots…… we piled it on the plate, and devoured it all. This meal was without question compensation for the massive efforts we had made to get here. Salads are turning out to be a rarity on this walk. I suspect the ingredients for salad may be quite expensive to serve so we made an extra effort to eat green at this meal.
After all, we were now convinced we had taken the worst the Camino had left to give us. We had proved ourselves worthy of the challenge, at least in our own minds. After all we were told the temperature had topped out in the mid 30‘s yesterday.
Bene’s strategy was to leave before 7:00am. This way we would be finished before the punishing afternoon sun. An idea I felt had particular merit….. I was in. (Smart lady that Bene)
We actually left our accommodations before 7 and were on the road with a couple of dozen others sharing the same idea. Using our flashlights as headlights we passed through the Pilgrim gates and over the bridge…… this really going to be a walking the park today for sure. (In retrospect this was a very significant bridge and is worth seeing in the daylight)
This is where reality and wishful thinking really do not run on parallel tracks.
Walking in the dark is quite wonderful. It is cool and by paying close attention it is a very comfortable time to walk. Unfortunately the darkness does not convince the terrain to be any less severe.
As the sun crested the surrounding mountains we were faced with aggressive uphill paths. One brutal ascent was followed by another….and the temperature started to rise.
Again we were walking though a broiler, and each step became more laboured than the last. It was obvious neither of us recovered from the demands placed on us the day before.
Our other concern was for Eddie and Susan who had decided to stay over in Pamplona for an extra night. They wouldn’t be heading into the jaws of a fire breathing dragon heading up the mountains surrounding Pamplona. We sent messages of warning, but got no response……
The walk continued relentless. Steep hills and long dry stretches without shade were delivered in abundance.
Why are these flies buzzing around us? We must be smelling like shi…….. oh, wait a minute….I get it. We obviously do smell like…..(fill in the blank)
One unassuming little town called Lorca had a wonderful fountain. It is astounding how cold, fresh water can reinvigorate and refresh. We filled our water bottles and splashed water all over our heads and necks. The effects were immediate and lasted for minutes. The refreshing water evaporated and we were once again on hard, baked dirt paths without shade of any sort.
During the last 3 km we stopped once again in a small-town and soaked our feet in an ice-cold stream. Again the effects of the water were welcomed as our numbed feet were no longer painfull reminders of the extraordinary demands we were putting on them.
Finally, and what seemed like an eternity we came to Estella. We were just starting to enter the town when Sabine called our names. (our German friend from St, Jean Pied de Port & Orrison) Sabine had walked on ahead and we really thought we would be unlikely to see her again. What a wonderful coincidence to see her here. Sabine would only be on her Camino for another couple of days as she had to return home, emphasizing the pleasure of seeing her again.
We said our goodbyes and headed out for the closest Albergue. Once we arrived at the first albergue as we entered the town, and after a brief look around, Bene didn’t like the look of the place and said we should head a little further into the town.
After an additional 5 minutes of walking we turned the corner to see big surprise. Susan was sitting a bench in front of the very next Albergue we wanted to stay in. We were ecstatic! Susan and Eddie had taken the bus from Pamplona and already had reserved beds for us. (returning the favour…..) They had also met up with Mark and his son Zeb.
Words fail to describe the feeling as our “Camino family” was reunited. I was overwhelmed to see both of them again, especially Susan. Other members of the family were also staying in these place… Ebbe and Jytte from Copenhagen were there as well. We decided we would eat home cooked meal. Mark, Zeb, and Eddie went shopping for food. Then Mark whipped up a fried rice while the rest of us made salads and artichoke heart/ roasted red pepper appetizers. Diner was a simple pasta…. and never tasted better.
It was such a happy time for us all.
Tomorrow is a new challenge. An extremely large hill is between our starting point and the destination. Interesting, the forecast says tomorrow is to be the hottest day in September….hotter than the last two days? This is hard to imagine.